I just finished listening to two audio books I grabbed at random, and by coincidence, both are set in New York City. Now, I like visiting New York, but to really know the city, you have to grow up there. Here are two girls, from very different worlds, who really know all the ins and outs of The City That Never Sleeps!
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The mystery starts with a spooky face in the window of a church–a pale face with long white hair where no face should be. In the middle of English class, Sophie screams at the sight. She knows she wasn’t daydreaming though, and is determined to find out who was in the tiny window set high in St. Veronica’s church. Sophie attends Saint Veronica’s Academy, a New York City girls’ attached to the church, and her fifth story classroom is opposite the window. Saint Veronica’s church is a huge, grand structure, with lots of alcoves, tiny rooms and tunnels that provide many hiding places, for people and for treasured artwork.
Determined to prove that she did see something strange, Sophie drags her friends Margaret and Rebecca into the church, where they evade security and priests alike to find a cat that leads them to a little-known passageway through the church and into the former convent next door. The first mystery is solved when they meet Ms. Harriman, and elderly lady who lives in the former convent. She introduces them to the second mystery, which involves a hidden treasure.
Ms. Harriman has just discovered a card that was sent to her daughter Caroline Chance twenty years ago for her thirteenth birthday, by her grandfather Everett Harriman. It’s the first clue in a treasure hunt that leads to a priceless treasure. The problem is that the second clue is somewhere inside a book in the St. Veronica’s school library, and Ms. Harriman has no way to access it. There’s also a problem with her ex-husband, Caroline’s father Malcolm Chance, who is also searching for the treasure. When Mrs. Harriman meets the girls, who DO have access to the school, and they team up. Suddenly, the hunt is on!
The audio recording of The Ring of Rocamadour is an excellent production. I loved the reader’s voice…she has a slight New York accent, so the narration sounds very authentic. The voices of Mrs. Harriman and Malcolm Chance sound very different, with Mrs. Harriman having an excellent sort of “elderly eccentric” voice, and Malcolm Chance being very British. There are five girls who play strongly into the plot–my only issue with the voices was that the girls sound a little too similar. Still, the pacing for each is a little different, so it’s not difficult to follow who is speaking.
The Ring of Rocamadour is an excellent mystery, with a great sense of place. Listeners will find themselves absorbed in the characters and the mystery, walking through the city, rooting for Sophie and trying to figure out “whodunnit”! And if you like this book and/or audio, it’s the first in a series about The Red Blazer Girls.
I would recommend The Ring of Rocamadour (and all of The Red Blazer Girls mysteries) to mystery lovers in fifth grade through eighth grade. It would be a fun CD to listen to for a family car trip, and a great selection to listen to if you’re planning a visit to New York City.
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Rachel’s morning has a great start when she looks down and her crappy old black boots have been replaced by the fashionable pair of green suede designer sneakers she’d seen at Bloomies the previous weekend. How did that happen? How could she forget lacing them up? Buying them? Thinking she just had a strange lapse in memory, Rachel calls home to thank her mother (and maybe get an idea about how she could have forgotten.) But her mother seems to be worried about something else and doesn’t even want to talk about the sneakers…she just orders Rachel to come home, even though she knew she had plans for after school.
Extremely reluctantly (and with maybe a tiny bit of an attitude) Rachel goes home. Her younger sister Miri is already there, having stayed home from school, and looking extremely smug about something. Rachel’s mom is smoking, something she never does anymore, and she looks even more worried than she sounded over the phone. Rachel knows something is wrong, but she never expected the problem to be what it is! Miri is a witch. So is Rachel’s mom. It’s inherited at puberty, it just seems to have skipped Rachel.
At first, Rachel thinks her mom has cracked. Ditto Miri. But Miri does some magic, and so does Mom, and suddenly, Rachel has to be a believer. Mom lays down the rules–Miri has a new spellbook, The Authorized and Absolute Reference Handbook to Astonishing Spells, Astounding Potions, and History of Witchcraft Since the Beginning of Time, but she is not allowed to use it. Seriously? Color Rachel Not Impressed. If you have magic, why not use it? With a little wheedling and a bit of blackmail, Rachel gets Miri to do a spell. In secret, of course. And that opens the floodgates.
What is the teenage sister of a pre-teen witch to do? If you have magic at your fingertips (or at your sister’s) it’s just too tempting. Popularity, here comes Rachel! But even the best-intentioned spells seem to have some consequences, and the ones that are…maybe…a teeny bit selfish have even more. Rachel has all her witches come true, but will it really help her with her achieve popularity and a place in the high school movers and shakers?
Bras & Broomsticks was a fun book to listen to. I loved the narrator’s voice, and all of the main characters are clearly different. Rachel and Miri sound different, which is great when they spend so much time talking to each other. Rachel’s mom has a Brooklyn accent, while her father sounds like he’s from Long Island. Several of the other characters–Rachel’s friends and the girls’ stepmother-to-be–are clearly differentiated.
Within the story, there are a lot of details about daily life in New York City. Even though it’s flavored with a bit of witchcraft, it rings true. From traveling by subway to finding the best coffee shops and shopping, the flavors of New York are there. There’s also the question of popularity…and if the ends justify the means.
Bras and Broomsticks is in the Teen section of the library. It’s best for upper middle school and high school readers. There are several more books about Rachel and her friends that are just as funny as this one. (And Rachel has one of her greatest wishes come true in Book Two!) Bras & Broomsticks will probably be most enjoyed by girls facing the issues of dating, crushes and popularity. It might be a great book for a family trip, with a discussion about some of these things afterward!
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If you’re looking for other audio titles set in New York City, you could also try Liar & Spy or When You Reach Me, both by Rebecca Stead, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburgh or How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff.
I wish there were as many great books set in Boston!